Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Half time score: Kinder Morgan 1, BC 0

May 19, 2016
NEB Recommends Approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline

VANCOUVER—The National Energy Board’s recommendation today in favour of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion comes as no surprise to Living Oceans, an intervenor in the process; but it leaves B.C. still without assurance that Premier Clark's five conditions for approval can be met.

"Most noteworthy is the lack of comment on the most critical issue, which is the potential for bituminous oils to be cleaned up after a spill,"  said Karen Wristen, Executive Director.  "We have maintained, based on the most credible of evidence, that conventional spill response technology will not be effective in the event of a spill of this particular group of products." 

A thorough review of past spills and laboratory work by the US National Academy of Sciences, published in December, 2015 found,
“While immediately following a spill, diluted bitumen behaves similarly to other crude oils,… exposure to the environment induces rapid physical and chemical changes known as “weathering” that are unique to diluted bitumen. Within days, diluted bitumen starts to turn into a heavy, viscous, sediment-laden residue that cannot easily be recovered using traditional response techniques. The residue has a strong tendency to adhere to surfaces, and it poses particular challenges if it is spilled into a body of water, because the residues can submerge or sink to the bottom.”
“The way diluted bitumen changes after weathering calls for greater concern compared with commonly transported crude oils and special response strategies and tactics,” said the NAS report. “A more comprehensive and focused approach is needed to improve preparedness for spills of diluted bitumen and to spur more effective cleanup and mitigation measures when spills do occur.”

In stark contrast to the approach taken in the US, the NEB finds that it does not need to address the whole issue of spill response; that is up to other agencies and the private marine response corporation.  Bitumen products may well sink, but it's up to someone else to clean them up.

"We have to bear in mind that this is only the first step in the regulatory process," said Wristen.  "The decision now goes to the provincial and federal Cabinets and a Prime Minister who campaigned on the slogan, 'Governments grant permits, communities grant permission'. BC's First Nations and communities have been most vocal in their stance against this development, so we will soon get to see just what that slogan meant to Prime Minister Trudeau.


Contact Information

Karen Wristen

Executive Director